Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 28

Elena


I have never been so nervous. Sitting here in this wooden chair at the kitchen table, my leg is shaking rapidly up and down, and my thumb nail is becoming non-existent from gnawing at it. I’m trying to figure out why I am so nervous about this date because it’s not like I’m going on a date with someone I don’t know very well - it’s Mike.

My neighbor, Mike. The Mike that has always managed to see me at my worst and has yet to be scared away. Why am I so nervous?

Knock, knock.

He’s here. I stand up from the chair and press my shirt down while I reach for the door. He looks perfect in his regular attire: holy black jeans and a plain black t-shirt with his boots. How does he manage to always look so good?

“Wow, you are gorgeous, Elena,” he says, looking me over from head to toe. I wonder if he caught me doing the same thing to him...

“Thank you, you don’t look too bad yourself,” I say as he offers his arm. He leads me to the truck and opens the door to help me in.

The car ride is quiet, but it’s not awkward at all. It’s a comfortable silence as we steal glances at each other from time to time. At one point, I ask him where we are going, but all he says is “Someplace special.”

He pulls off to the side of the road.

“Put this on over your eyes,” he orders as he hands me a bandana.

Taking it from his hand, I want to know where we are going; I’m not sure how I feel about being blindfolded. “What?”

“Just put it on, it’s a surprise- I don’t want you to see anything yet,” he pleads.

My eyes roll while letting out a smile. I comply and tie the bandana around my eyes.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” he asks.

“I can’t see,” I laugh.

I hear a deep chuckle. “Good. Just checking.”

The truck takes a turn, and the road gets a little bumpy for a while before we stop again. My patience is thinning from excitement. “Are we there yet?”

“Eager, are we?” Mike’s amused. I try to swat at him, but I hear a door open and close. Before I know it, my door opens, and I feel his hands on mine. He guides me out of the truck then places me in front of him against his chest, holding the sides of my arms as we walk.

Fresh, crisp air fills my lungs. I feel tall soft blades scrape against my body and my hands – grass? I hear birds and the sound of light waves hitting a shoreline from a ways away; the anticipation is killing me.

“I think you like being blindfolded.” I hear him grin, so I nudge him in his hard belly with my elbow. “Owe,” he chuckles. “Feisty, I like that.”

“Mike!” I screech while laughing.

“Alright, alright, you ready, Kitten?” I hear his deep drawl by my ear as he slowly drags his fingers up over my shoulders, then to my neck, and up to the blindfold - sending hot goosebumps down my body.

“Yes,” I breathe. I feel him remove the bandana, my eyes open to the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. We are in the middle of a very large, very secluded field of wildflowers with a lake nearby. Under the clear sunset sky, there’s a picnic table set for two with a picnic basket, dixie cups, and a candle – the most romantic sight ever. I must be dreaming this.

“Do you like it?” I hear him ask from behind against my ear. His baritone voice and the heat from his mouth sends sparks down to my core – I almost become a puddle right at his feet.

I turn to face him. “I love it. It’s beautiful,” I gasp.

“It’s not too cheesy?” he asks while he leads me to the table.

Taking my seat while he sits opposite of me, I answer him, “Not at all. I can’t believe you did all of this for me.”

How many other girls has he brought here? I swallow the rising bile.

Mike rubs his hands together above the table. “I’ve never done anything like this before; I’m not sure I’ll be any good at it.” Slowly, he brings his eyes to mine.

“Never done what before?” I ask.

“Date. Take anyone out on a date.” My heart just about bursts.

“You’ve never taken anyone out on a date before?” I’m trying to wrap my mind around being his first date. A guy like him, I’m sure, would have had hundreds of dates.

He shakes his head with a sheepish smile.

“What about that blond?” I can’t believe I brought her up.

Mike looks confused. “What blond? Wait...you’ve been spying on me, haven’t you?” he smirks.

Now I have to try to explain myself. Taking a napkin that was on the table, I place it on my lap to give my hands something to do. “A few weeks ago, I saw headlights of a taxi in your driveway, it distracted me from a show I was watching, so I turned to look – I wasn’t spying – I swear,” I lie. “I saw a blond leave your house...I figured it was your girlfriend...”

He smiles with that dimple. “No. I’ve never had a girlfriend; she was just someone I met.” There’s a quick pause. “How about some food?” He gestures to the basket. I grin and nod my head. I could eat.

So, he’s never had a girlfriend and has never dated... but he ... sleeps around?

“Now, I’m not the best cook, but I do make a mean ham and cheese flatbread melt,” he proudly states. Mike places a sandwich on my plate. “I also have some grapes, cheese and crackers, and some wine.”

A light laugh leaves me. “Everything looks great! But Mike, we’re eighteen, we shouldn’t be drinking.” I point at the wine bottle, wondering how he got it in the first place...does he have a fake ID? It wouldn’t surprise me.

He seems to have forgotten that aspect. “Right...well, you don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to; I have sparkling grape juice here too. I just thought wine would be more... romantic.” He gives me that dimpled crooked smile again.

I say while lifting my hands, “Why not? Let’s embrace it.”

That dimple can make me do just about anything. After all, I’m not necessarily new at the whole underage drinking thing because of the party. Plus, I doubt he’ll try to shove the bottle down my throat to take advantage of me like that one guy... So, I feel safe enough to let loose a tiny bit.

He pours two small dixie cups of wine and places the rest of the food out on the table. Taking a bite of the sandwich he made - I moan in approval- it tastes amazing. My mouth began to water before I even took the first bite. Smoked ham and melted swiss cheese with a type of buffalo sauce – all complemented each other wonderfully. I’m sure the sounds I’ve been making are compliments enough for him as he smiles at me while I eat.

“This is really good.”

As he takes a bite of his own, he replies, “I’m glad you like it.”

“I have a question.” Actually, I have a million.

The corner of his mouth rises. “Oh yeah? I bet you do. Shoot.”

I ask while secretly saying a prayer that it’s nobody important: “Who is Layla?”

Mike chuckles. “You haven’t heard the song before?” he asks. I stare at him blankly. “Oh Kitten, you’re killing me. Eric Clapton?”

The crickets couldn’t have had better timing. “Layla, you got me on my knees,” he sings, placing his hand over his heart, he continues, “Layla, begging, darling, please.” He sounds good when he sings, but I can’t help but laugh at him. “Layla, darling, won’t you ease my worried mind?”

I’m still giggling at him - even with his help of singing the lyrics - I still have no clue who this Eric Clapton is.

“That’s it, we’re listening to Eric on the way back home,” he states.

“So, what’s your truck’s name, then?” I ask when my laughter sobers. Hoping that perhaps I’ll get another performance.

“Roxanne,” he grins.

My eyes narrow a tad. “Who is Roxanne?”

“Roxanne,” Mike sings again as I hide my face behind my hands - laughing- sneaking a peek through my fingers. “You don’t have to put on the red light. Those days are over; you don’t have to sell your body to the night – Roxanne.” He laughs at himself – “Haven’t heard that one either, huh?” he asks.

I shake my head with a smile. “You named your truck after a song about a hooker?”

“Maybe.” He shrugs and grins.

“Who sings that one?” I ask.

“Girl, the Police.”

Leaning onto the table with my elbow, I rest my chin in the palm of my hand. “Perhaps you should let them sing it then.” I wink at him, and he laughs. I love his laugh.

Taking a few grapes, I decide to dive into the mystery of the man in front of me. “So,” I start. “What’s your story?”

“My story?” he asks, and I nod. “Well, I popped out like a daisy, got spanked a few times, hit adolescence, and now I’m here...with you.” He smiles triumphantly.

“Hey!” I say as I swat at him.

He holds up a finger. “Hay is for horses; straw is cheaper.”

I swat at him again. “Tell me about your family, do you have any siblings? What was your childhood like? Do you have any plans after high school? Do you live with your parents? Because I’ve only ever seen you around the house...” By the look on his face, I take it that I probably scared him with all my questions.

His eyes go wide as he takes a sharp breath. “That’s a lot of questions there missy, how about you just pick two.”

I guess that can work... “Why haven’t you ever dated before?”

He probably expected me to ask one of the questions I threw at him seconds earlier. However, this one has been nagging at me - along with another one -but I’ll ask that one later.

Shifting in his seat, he gulps the rest of his wine before he answers. “I guess I never wanted to before.”

“...But you do with me?” The question spills on a near whisper.

His lips purse a little as he nods his head, looking a tad uncomfortable so, I’ll leave it at that...for now.

Perhaps, he’s not comfortable with sharing how he feels; if he’s never dated before or had relationships, then maybe his vulnerable side hasn’t been dipped into a whole lot. I plan on dipping in, no, I plan on diving. Baby steps, Elena, you don’t want to scare him away.

“You still have one more question. Be wise about it,” he reminds me bravely.

I take a moment to ponder that... there are too many. Like the scar on his chest, how he became who he is, what are his fears?

Way too many. So, I pick one that might lead to a light conversation.

“Alright, do you live by yourself?” There is also another question I want to ask - but I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that one just yet.

He studies me for a moment. “Yes.”

The look on my face tells him that I want to know more; thankfully, he obliges, “I moved out when I was sixteen. My mom lives two towns over-closer to the coast, and my dad...” He winces. “My dad left my mom and me when I was eight.”

There’s a whole new sea of questions clashing about in my mind right now; it takes everything I have not to let them roll out in waves. He said only two questions...I have to respect that.

“You’re dying to know more, aren’t you?” he asks with a smirk; I can’t help but nod my head.

“Well... you’re going to have to hold on to them for our next date, then,” he says confidently.

“Next date?” I ask. We aren’t even done with this one, are we? How does he know he wants to go on another one when this one isn’t over with yet?

He quickly adds, “If you want to, that is,” trying to correct himself.

Without hesitation, the word blurts out. “Yes!”

“Well, good.” He grins with that dimple.

Sitting up straight and then leaning on the table with his elbows, he speaks, “Your turn.”

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